Cold-weather sports offer thrills like no other. The smoothness of riding down fresh snow and the rush of low temperature are exciting. Beyond these, the feeling of slowly warming up after a cool day outdoors is pure, blissful relaxation.
Unfortunately, by summer, most of that freshly fallen snow has melted. Worse yet, climbing average temperatures has put many areas in a state of flux. Certain parts of the West Coast, like Southern and Coastal California, are known for their year-round highs. The West Coast is also home to some of the best summer skiing in the nation.
High mountains, vast ranges, and even dormant volcanoes make up this list of the best summer snowboarding sites. We’ll be highlighting the locations and pointing out how to make the most of your journey.
A disclaimer before we begin: Colorado, Utah, and other slightly inland states offer plentiful opportunities for skiing and snowboarding year-round. However, we will exclusively be covering the opportunities available in the states along the Pacific Coast.
A second disclaimer is that specific start and end dates for a given location vary year by year. Depending on specific yearly changes, this could be a difference of days, weeks, or even months. Still, the curated places below have proven themselves to be the best sites for summer skiing.
Mammoth Mountain, California
A few hours inland, near Yosemite National Park, is Mammoth Mountain. The summit receives over 33 feet of snow every year, creating countless acres of beautiful natural terrain. A broad range of classes make it accessible to new skiers yet challenging enough for seasoned ones.
In the best of years, Mammoth Mountain is available for skiing through mid-July. This gives it one of the longest skiing seasons in the entire nation.
More fascinating than this vaunted status is the personal history of the area. Mammoth Mountain is a lava complex on the rim of the Long Valley Caldera. This means that it sits atop various volcanoes with intermingling flows and structures.
Thankfully it is long dormant; otherwise, it would make for tricky skiing. There are occasional reports of suspected minor activity, but the last major volcanic event occurred centuries ago.
Speaking of time, this complex structure has been formed over the course of the last 110,000 years. The end result is a mountain that sits just over 11,000 feet tall in altitude.
Heavenly Mountain Resort, California
Heavenly Mountain Resort is located along southern Lake Tahoe and is noted for its wide amenities and mind-boggling acreage. Shorter than Mammoth Mountain, Heavenly Mountain is only, we say ironically, 10,067 feet in elevation. This still puts it as the tallest area in Lake Tahoe.
If you are going casually on a trip, choose from one of 97 different trails across 4,800 acres. These include light, even descents, as well as sheer 1,600-foot chutes. Levels of intensity for all ages are available here.
If you have a child who adores skiing, there are also competitive youth teams. These can help muster a will to excel and a competitive edge that can last a lifetime.
Heavenly Mountain Resort does warn against an issue prevalent as you reach higher altitudes: Sun damage. As you ascend, even though temperatures drop, the power of sunlight bearing down will grow ever stronger. This can be solved through either, or ideally both, facial and clothing protection.
Choose attire with effective UFP to protect your body from burns. Wool can make a great outerwear and headgear material for its thermoregulating nature. Apply sunscreen or moisturizer with built-in SPF protection to complete your shield. With all these, you’re one step closer to being prepared to brave the most treacherous of sites.
Palisades Tahoe, California
Our next California ski destination brings us to the other edge of Lake Tahoe, to the northeast. This area recently changed its name to replace the outdated Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows name with one worth celebrating.
While out skiing with friends, Alex Cushing heard a rumor of a wonderful place for late-season skiing. After examining it themselves, he and his friends would endeavor to raise money to build a permanent settlement. In 1949, what is now known as Palisades Tahoe was founded with just one chairlift and housing for a few dozen people.
11 years later, it would make surprising history in more ways than one. The U.S. won the bid to host the 1960 Olympic Games at Palisades Tahoe on one condition: The area had to be more well-funded and expanded to meet European standards of Alpine skiing. The end result turned it into one of the premier U.S. destinations for skiing and snowboarding with state funding.
The game saw live coverage by CBS, which utilized the first modern instant replay machine for the occasion. The machine was difficult to use and weighed over 1300 pounds, but it paved the way for modern sports coverage.
Today, the Palisades is known for numerous tracks on various mountain faces. There are also other regular events to keep your days varied day and night. These include periodic nightly snow tubing events with the mountain lit up in technicolor and four-course Bavarian-inspired meals.
The Palisades Tahoe doesn't just supply a ski and snowboarding destination. It also supplies a wonderful destination for anyone looking for their next alpine adventure.
Mt. Hood, Oregon
At 11,245 feet, Mt. Hood is the tallest volcano in the state of Oregon. It’s also home to Timberline Lodge: a ski resort that’s open ten months out of the year. Consider it the ultimate Pacific Northwest ski destination in any season, not just summer.
The lift systems include 11 different devices to take you along various points in the operation. The highest operation point is at 8,540 feet, while the lowest is the Summit Pass at 4,000 feet.
Speaking of elevation, Timberline is home to one of the most dramatic vertical skiable distances in the area. This drop is roughly 4,500 feet during the winter months and 2,600 during the summer months.
The resort hosts many inclusive events meant to inspire and build upon a lifelong love of skiing and snowboarding. It also boasts some of the latest-season skiing of any place on this list. Lifts are operational from October to August, closing in September to allow for annual maintenance and upkeep. For ten months out of the year, consider it as a special journey.
Mt. Saint Helens, Washington
In 1980, Mt. Saint Helens became inhospitable for skiing and any type of habitation when a violent eruption occurred. The Worm Flows is named for the winding rivulets it takes from the crater of the mountain on the south. This drops from an elevation of 8,300 feet to 2,700 feet.
Starting in late May and continuing through to early fall, permits are required to climb or anywhere along the route. Daily visitors are limited to 100, making it a place for secluded journeying even at its busiest.
This route provides sublime visibility compared to many on this list, thanks much of the route being above the treeline. There are fewer amenities for those seeking the type of lessons or support offered elsewhere. Mt. Saint Helens still provides gorgeous backcountry skiing for those willing to brave the once-dangerous crater.
Mt. Adams, Washington
The second-tallest mountain in the Cascade Range is considered to be the little brother to Mt. Saint Helens. Mt. Adams directly takes its name from President John Adams, alluding to nearby Mt. Washington.
The ski season here runs from September through to late July and is not for the faint of heart. The Northwest Mountain School runs guided tours and refuses to guide inexperienced skiers down its slopes.
An exploration of Mt Adams takes anywhere from 1-3 days. This accounts for climbing on foot up the mountain and a single-day descent of up to 4500 feet.
Pack your very best winter gear for the occasion. Layering in thermal pieces will help you operate at your very best. If you have it, be sure to bring mountaineering gear, including crampons and ice axes. The mountain is not terribly treacherous, but being unprepared exposes you to that risk.
Beat the Heat with a Summer Getaway
Summer may be associated with the beach, but for those who love the cold it presents challenges in finding resorts. Thankfully the rugged terrain of the West Coast provides ample inland opportunities for those who chase adventure.
Summer snowboarding, when done safely, can be a wonderful and easygoing task compared to harsh winters. The extreme weather of colder months is often replaced with milder, more relaxed weather patterns.
Annual specifics for summer skiing change year-by-year, so if you have a particular trail that interests you, keep up to date with their season. While some may close early, chances are that at any point in the year there’s skiing to be had somewhere. Pack your bags with alpine equipment and apparel, and get going.